A conversation with New Haven Independent Founder Paul Bass

newhaven
Photo (cc) 2015 by Anna Hanks

Today my class had the chance to hear from Paul Bass, a man at the forefront of the race to rethink the journalism model. 

Bass is the founder of both the New Haven Independent and the affiliated WNHH Radio, both of which are run out of New Haven, Conn. The Independent is a non-profit, online-only newspaper that relies on donors and grants for funding, an interesting model in an era where both subscription and ad revenue are shrinking around the country. WNHH is described on the Independent website as broadcasting “original New Haven news and arts programs with dozens of local hosts.”

As a hyper-local site, the Independent has had a demonstrated impact on the New Haven area. Bass told how the paper covered the potentially unconstitutional arrests by local police of two people who were filming the officers. The coverage led to legislation at the state level to protect citizen’s recording rights.

As a member of the small organization, he has to wear many hats, from radio host to reporter.“I have to make sure not to get burnt out,” he said.

In fact, the company as a whole seems to live at the intersection of several genres of media.

“Are we a radio station or a news site? Our answer is yes,” he said.

Bass highlighted the diversity of his reporters and radio hosts. For example, the WHNN host staff is 40 percent African-American, 40 percent white and 20 percent Latino.

He believes it’s good for people to know journalist’s bias. To remain fair, he suggested reporters acknowledge their own bias and “try twice as hard to get people you don’t agree with [as sources].”

His main piece of advice to my class? Find a good newsroom, and focus on interesting people over prestige in the search. “The opportunities will follow,” he said.

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